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The most underrated smartphones of 2023
There were plenty of great smartphones launched in 2023, such as the Galaxy S23 series, the Pixel 8 range, the Pixel 7a, and the Motorola Razr Plus.
But there were also quite a few great phones that flew under the radar this year, be it due to unfortunate launch timing, being a device from a lesser-known brand, or something else altogether. No matter the reason, here are the most underrated smartphones of 2023.
ASUS Zenfone 10
ASUS doesn’t have a big marketing budget and lacks the same geographic footprint as bigger rivals. So is it any surprise to see the Zenfone 10 make this list?
The Zenfone 10 was once again one of the few compact flagship phones of the year, and it was a proper premium experience in many ways. Snapdragon 8 Gen 2? Yep. Wireless charging? Sure. IP68 rating? Naturally. It even brought a 3.5mm port to the table.
It wasn’t flawless, owing to the company’s disappointing update pledge, the lack of a telephoto camera, and poor sustained performance. But you can’t do much better than this if you want a pocket-friendly powerhouse.
HONOR Magic 5 Pro
HONOR continues to gain momentum after it was spun off by HUAWEI in 2020. The brand showed it could duke it out with the top flagship phones with the launch of the HONOR Magic 5 Pro in February 2023.
The Magic 5 Pro ticked loads of boxes for a high-end phone; a slick design with an IP68 rating, the latest flagship Snapdragon silicon, brisk wired/wireless charging, and cameras that can rival industry leaders.
HONOR’s flagship still stumbled in a couple of areas, such as the lack of Gorilla Glass protection and the middling software. It probably also didn’t help matters that the company’s first global foldable, the Magic Vs, was launched at the same time. Nevertheless, the Magic 5 Pro clearly demonstrates that HONOR can challenge the big guns.
What would happen if you combined Lenovo’s ThinkPad PC line with a smartphone? The company answered that question at CES 2023 when it revealed the ThinkPhone.
The ThinkPhone was squarely aimed at the business market, bringing ThinkShield protection, Motorola’s desktop mode, the ability to use the phone as a PC webcam, and a respectable commitment to updates.
The spec sheet was mostly great too, owing to 2022’s still-powerful Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 SoC, lengthy endurance, 68W wired charging, an IP68 rating, and a hardware shortcut key. The only real downsides are the camera system and the fact that the $600 Pixel 7 existed.
Motorola Edge Plus 2023
Motorola’s Edge series has long been a tale of “almost.” These flagship phones have never quite managed to achieve excellence. However, the Motorola Edge Plus 2023 is perhaps the first Edge device to hit that mark.
Android Authority reviewer Ryan Haines called this Motorola’s best flagship in years, citing the premium design (including an IP68 rating), flagship-tier performance, solid cameras, great battery life, and speedy charging. Toss in a $799 price tag for 512GB of storage and it definitely warrants consideration.
Perhaps the biggest downside to this phone is that customer apathy might be high owing to previous models being wide of the mark. Here’s hoping 2024 brings more of this Motorola, though.
Nothing Phone 2
The sophomore entry often seems like the more challenging endeavor, right? Nothing delivered the surprisingly good Nothing Phone 1 in 2022, but how do you follow up on something like that?
Fortunately, the Nothing Phone 2 was a great successor to the original handset, making all the right upgrades. That meant plenty more horsepower, more customizable and useful Glyph lighting, and wireless charging support. Picture quality, speaker quality, and the IP54 rating still left us wanting, but there were certainly far more hits than misses.
Sony Xperia 1 V
Much like ASUS, Sony’s phones have flown under the radar for years now. The Xperia 1 V continued this trend, and that’s a shame given what’s on offer here.
Sony brought a few features that will please enthusiasts, namely a 3.5mm port, microSD expansion, and a 4K screen. The Xperia 1 V also brings an impressive camera experience, and Sony continues to be the only company offering a variable telephoto camera today.
The addition of flagship internals, a 5,000mAh battery, an IP68 rating, and wireless charging only sweetens the package. But the $1,400 price tag and Sony’s deeply disappointing update pledge didn’t help matters, to put it mildly.